Wilkes County, NC Arts and Culture Overview

By Teree Caruthers on June 28, 2014 at 6:00 am EST

From familiar favorites like Whippoorwill Academy and Village to new additions like the Ecology Center at Herring Ridge, Wilkes County's menu of cultural attractions remains one of the region's most prized amenities.

The Past Preserved

A piece of Wilkes County history comes alive at Whippoorwill Academy and Village in Ferguson. The vision of the late Edith Carter, longtime artist and resident, the historic attraction is home to the restored 1880s Whippoorwill Academy schoolhouse where James Larkin Pearson, renowned newspaper publisher and poet, received his early education. Pearson was North Carolina’s second poet laureate,  from 1953-1981. The Whippoorwill campus also includes the restored 1864 Yadkin River Jail, a chapel known as the Chapel of Peace, the Smokehouse art gallery, a blacksmith shop and a replica of a Daniel Boone cabin. Most notable is the Tom Dooley museum, with an exhibit that tells the legendary story of Wilkes County native Tom Dula (Dooley), who was hanged for the murder of his fiancee, Laura Foster. Dula’s story and the mystery surrounding his conviction are the inspiration for numerous books, a popular song by The Kingston Trio and even a movie adaptation starring Michael Landon.

History Sets the Stage

Bleu Moon Productions, a Wilkes County theater troupe, takes the story of Tom Dooley to the stage with their annual production of Tom Dooley: A Wilkes County Legend. The play is performed throughout July with a cast of local actors and actresses at the Forest Edge Amphitheatre in Wilkesboro’s Fort Hamby Park. The production company also holds performances throughout the year at the Wilkes Heritage Museum. Past productions have included the holiday favorite, A Christmas Story, The Last of the Red Hot Lovers and Larry Shue’s The Foreigner. The troupe performs scenes from Tom Dooley each year at the Daniel Boone Day celebration at Whippoorwill Academy and Village.

A Natural Attraction

Kids and their families can learn to appreciate art created by Mother Nature at the W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir Environmental Education Center. The center, open to the public, is located in a wing of the visitor center. Visitors can learn about water safety, local ecosystems and indigenous species. A model of a beaver dam, for example, shows how the dam-building process creates the wetlands habitat for other animals, and interactive exhibits teach kids about the reservoir’s native plants and animals and about the importance of environmental stewardship. The center is open 1-5 p.m. daily April to November and by appointment December through March. Admission is free.

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